Martini Racing officially returns to F1 with Williams

As a car culture, we throw the word "iconic" too much, but if there's anything it has ever applied to – when it comes to racing liveries especially – surely it's the legendary stripes of Martini Racing. The Italian vermouth brand has sponsored everything from Porsche endurance racers to Lancia rally cars. It's followed Ford into the WRC and Alfa Romeo into DTM. It's even sponsored offshore racing powerboats. But when it comes toFormula One, it's come and gone over the years.

Martini Racing started out sponsoring the unsuccessful Italian squad Tecno in 1972, then switched to the World-Champion Brabham racing team run by Bernie Ecclestone. It sponsored Lotus in 1979, then disappeared from the scene for decades until its logo showed up on the Ferrari 248 F1 in 2006, only to vanish again into the history books. But now it's back.

As promised, Martini has penned a new deal with the Williams F1 team to see its stripes adorn theMercedes-powered FW36 which Felipe Massa and Finnish newcomer Valtteri Bottas will be driving in the 2014 FIA Formula One World Championship. The rechristened Williams Martini Racing has just revealed its car in full race livery – complete with those red, navy and light blue stripes draped over white bodywork – ahead of the Australian Grand Prix that will open the season in Melbourne next weekend.

The partnership gives Williams the best-looking livery and highest-profile sponsor since Rothmans in the 1990s, and gives us one more reason to pull for the plucky underdogs that have been outshining the frontrunners in pre-season testing.